Contagion. Pandemic. Outbreak. Because, Why Not?

I was inspired to go on a journey of epidemiological exploration by this segment of On The Media part of the show that aired on March 13, 2020.

On the Media – Rewatching “Contagion” During The Pandemic

This was the second or third podcast that featured an interview with Laurie Garrett, one of the scientific advisors on the film Contagion. She was in a segment of On The Media from a previous week, as well as being the subject of the Breaking News Consumer’s Handbook: Infectious Disease Edition episode of On the Media back in 2014.

Then there was this episode of Planet Money: The Disease Detectives or this segment from Morning Edition. It was beginning to look like everyone was talking about this movie. I remembered watching it, or at least starting to watch it. But I couldn’t remember more than the first few minutes of the film.

Contagion (2010) (Cinemax link)

Wesley Morris, writing for the New York Times, calls it an explanatory drama in his article. I think of it more as a detective story that understands why we might turn on a movie about a fictional pandemic while we are caught up in a very real pandemic all around us. We want answers, and by the end of the film we have those answers. The closing scenes alone are very rewarding, making the sometimes dry delivery of the film worth the wait, if any of you who watch it find that you feel like you are waiting.

I know why I didn’t remember watching the movie to the end the first time. When they start trepanning open the first victims skull and folding back her scalp, I’m pretty sure I bailed on the film. I almost did that again the second time, even knowing what it was I signed up to watch. We will be getting the most out of that frew week of Cinemax that got us access to the movie for free that first night.

After watching Contagion, I surfed over to check out the Netflix documentary that I had heard someone else talk about.

Pandemic (2020) Netflix

I wasn’t clear on whether this series was a documentary series or not until I tuned in to watch it. The first episode makes this very clear. It’s a documentary. All the episodes inter-relate, but there are different segments in each episode about the different facets of the problem of dealing with a pandemic in different countries. You come away with a pretty clear view of the problems we face dealing with any kind of healthcare crisis in the world, much less one as broad and crippling as the current coronavirus pandemic.

From doctors to anti-vaxxers and back again, the series gives you a broad but shallow look at healthcare in the world today. Since we all have a lot of time on our hands these days, and are probably curious about why we have a lot of time on our hands, this series should help you understand why that is.

Neither venture delivers the punch of an epic disaster movie, though.

Outbreak (1995) Netflix

Outbreak is just the kind of disaster movie you are probably looking for, if those two offerings aren’t to your taste. From devastating viral death rates to government cover-ups to an edge-of-your-seat ending, this film is everything the others are not. Including it being completely unbelievable to anyone with a shred of understand of how infections spread successfully or how government programs work. But it is a good popcorn movie with a rewarding ending. You can’t ask for much more in these times of stress and worry.

Associated Forces

This unspeakable act on the United States has really forced me, however, to rely on my moral compass, my conscience, and my God for direction. September 11 changed the world. Our deepest fears now haunt us. Yet I am convinced that military action will not prevent further acts of international terrorism against the United States. This is a very complex and complicated matter.

Now, this resolution will pass, although we all know that the President can wage a war even without it. However difficult this vote may be, some of us must urge the use of restraint. Our country is in a state of mourning. Some of us must say, let’s step back for a moment. Let’s just pause just for a minute and think through the implications of our actions today so that this does not spiral out of control.

Now, I have agonized over this vote, but I came to grips with it today and I came to grips with opposing this resolution during the very painful, yet very beautiful, memorial service, as a member of the clergy so eloquently said, “As we act, let us not become the evil that we deplore.”[1]

Rep. Barbara Lee, on the Authorization for Use of Military Force (wikisource)
Radiolab – 60 Words – January 7, 2020

Associated forces are the mythical sixty-first and sixty-second words in the authorization for use of military force (AUMF) They appear nowhere in the text of the document passed by the US congress, and yet they are the basis for the continuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and were the basis for the support of the war against DAESH/ISIS. They are the basis for the latest strike on Qasem Soleimani on Iraqi soil. They will be the basis for the eventual war in Iran that Republicans desperately want to start next.

Hindsight has proven that Barbara Lee is an American hero. A patriot that puts people like yours truly to shame. Why? Because I acted to quash a resolution by Travis county Libertarians to come out against declaring a war on terrorism. I did this not because I thought that war was justified. I did it because I felt that a political organization that hoped to be given power in some future election could not publically come out against a war that was so demonstrably popular with the masses back in 2001.

I would like to think that if I had been in Barbara Lee’s shoes back then, I might have had the fortitude to stand up for what I believed in, as she did. But I doubt it. I would probably have seen the writing on the wall, as Senator Joe Biden did, and felt justified in supporting a resolution that was going to pass whether I spoke out against it or not.

What I do know now is that the AUMF has to be rescinded. We will never get out of this endless war unless we do rescind it. We are breeding new legions of US hating terrorists with every one of the targeted strikes we engage in now. Unless we like being the most hated country in the world, with our citizenry afraid to travel beyond the country’s borders for fear of being targeted themselves, we have to give up this unwinnable war against terrorism. Unless we want to bankrupt our country in much the same way as we forced the USSR to bankrupt their country in Afghanistan at the end of the cold war, we cannot continue acting the way we have acted since 2001. It is time for all of this hatred and killing to stop and we have to stop it.

The Afghanistan Papers

“What did we get for this $1 trillion effort? Was it worth $1 trillion?” Jeffrey Eggers, a retired Navy SEAL and White House staffer for Bush and Obama, told government interviewers. He added, “After the killing of Osama bin Laden, I said that Osama was probably laughing in his watery grave considering how much we have spent on Afghanistan.”

THE WASHINGTON POST – Confidential documents reveal U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan
On the Media – The “Pentagon Papers” Of Our Time – December 11, 2019

I had hopes, when Bush II went into Afghanistan, that he would keep his eye on the ball of catching and punishing those responsible for the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. It didn’t even take a year for me to realize that he and his administration were not up to the task. Iraq became the thing he was obsessed with instead of getting the job that he had started done properly.

What I didn’t know was how complicit President Obama was in covering up the failures in Afghanistan. At least he managed to finish the job Bush II started. If only he could have gotten us out of Afghanistan, too. Attempting to occupy Afghanistan was what did in the USSR. It looks to destroy the United States, too.

Vindman vs. Sondland

I put a lot more stock in the testimony of career military officers like Colonel Vindman than I do in some rich real estate developer who bought his way into a diplomatic position.

U.S. Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY18)
Impeachment: A Daily Podcast – ‘It’s as Bad as You Think,’ Says Congressman Inside Impeachment Hearings – October 30, 2019

…or one that bought his way into the presidency.

Who is Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman? Well, here’s a few things to know. He works at the White House as a Ukraine expert on the National Security Council. He heard the call on July 25 between President Trump and President Zelenskiy of Ukraine. He’s active-duty Army. And today he has testified in the impeachment inquiry underway on Capitol Hill.

NPR, Who is Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman?

The twins, Alexander and Yevgeny Vindman, both ended up working for the White House under President Trump. Both Vindmans served in the U.S. Army, and both rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Each now works for the National Security Council.

Theirs is, in the abstract, the quintessential American story. Migrants who arrived from the former Soviet Union at age 3 who’ve since dedicated their lives to serving their new country. The Vindmans’ experience is a manifestation of the poem at the base of the statue: They are part of the impoverished, huddled masses seeking the chance to breathe free. They did so, deeply.

The Washington Post, The fundamentally un-American attacks on Alexander Vindman

Lifestyles of the Rich & Hidden

Check out the second segment of this episode of On The Media. The description of what a wealth manager is and does is almost beyond imagining. As the guest says, Smithers, but more believably human.

On the Media – Lifestyles of the Rich and Hidden – November 10, 2017

A look inside the Paradise Papers and at the secretive industry of “wealth management” that makes sure the wealthy remain rich and hidden.